“I’d rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God” – Grace Wesley
God’s Not Dead 2 introduces us to Grace Wesley, (played by Melissa Joan Hart), a high school teacher, who refuses to apologize for her faith, even when the school board takes her to court after what they consider to be be proselytizing.
The incident that started it all was her response to a question from a student, Brooke Thawley, (played by Hayley Orrantia), in regards to how Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s non-violent approach to peace can compare to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Much like God’s Not Dead, (which I reviewed here), this sequel revolves around the theme of standing strong for one’s faith and convictions. This time, instead of the teacher as the antagonist, the teacher is the persecuted. Instead of the class as jury, there is a real jury.
As we hear the arguments from both the plaintiff’s attorney (played by Ray Wise), and Grace’s attorney (Jesse Metcalfe), we are asked to consider one question: Is it faith at trial, or is our heroine?
Takeaways from the movie:
I think it is a timely movie with a timely message. Religious civil rights and freedoms are a big battleground right now. As such, God’s Not Dead 2 has been criticized as catering to a “persecution complex”, and in all honesty, I can see why people would say that. It is true that we as believers in the U.S. suffer very little for our faith compared to those in the Middle East. And yet, I believe that any awareness of the growing intolerance (as evidenced by 50 real life court cases at the end of the movie), is not crying wolf, but simply acknowledging written prophecy. (Matthew 10:22). It’s not as much about any present level of persecution, it’s about the gradual trend that society is taking, and recognizing it from the frame of reference of a Christ follower. Pastor Dave (played by David A.R. White) refers to this awareness when he said “If we sit by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today will mean persecution tomorrow”.
- I found the real-life witnesses used for the defense to be quite compelling, especially that of J. Warner Wallace, (Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University) who wrote “Cold Case Christianity”. In this work, he provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel accounts. The approach of the defense was to prove the historic Jesus, logically and factually. Much was left with to audience to ponder, at least for this viewer.
- I could relate to the underlying theme of doubting one’s faith. Trisha LaFache is back to play the role of Amy Ryan, a reporter diagnosed with cancer. She is in remission now, but begins to wonder if her faith came about only because she was in crisis. There are two other characters in this film (played by Martin Yip and the aforementioned Hayley Orrantia) who are full of questions about faith. In light of the overriding courtroom drama, a parallel is drawn: Christ once asked the question, “who do you say that I am?”, and we must all answer it, both individually and as a society.
- I found the classroom conversation that brought the matter under question in the first place to be a bit far-fetched. A teacher gave a factual, historical answer to a student’s honest question. Even the scriptures quoted were done in context of a historical speech, and none of it even remotely sounded like proselytizing. It would have been more interesting to create a circumstance with more gray area, but I think we just need to take this movie as a caricature that was written to make a point; a simple sketch of real-life situations.
- At times, there were story lines that were incohesive and could have been developed more, or otherwise seemed to drop off for no reason. In one scene, Pastor David is threatened for not turning in his sermon transcript to city authorities. We never see what happens with that. God’s Not Dead 3 perhaps?
- While I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I will say that I found the closing argument to be confusing, in light of the no-nonsense approach of the previous arguments of the defense. It didn’t seem to fit into their decided strategy, and in my opinion unnecessary and probably not likely to be successfully had this been a real courtroom.
Have you ever been put in a position to defend your faith, even at the cost of your job, friends, or family?
In the midst of all the fireworks of last Friday night’s Fourth of July celebration, I sat wondering if anyone else saw the impending clouds in the distance. They were no longer just an outline on the horizon, but were now deep and ominous, almost filling the sky.
I closed my eyes for a moment. I had to get away from the crowd for just a minute to block out the deafening booms and bangs and the oohs and ahhs. “Wait a minute…was that thunder?” I asked myself. No, what I sensed buried underneath the noise was a low rumble, like a grumpy, shifting giant, groaning deep within his diaphragm from hunger upon awakening. It was barely discernable at first, but obvious to me once I recognized the sound. I turned away with my head down, passing through a sea of partyers.
The approaching storm I was thinking of had nothing to do with the weather. It had everything to do with the slow and steady approach of threat to the very independence we celebrate. Bewildered, I have had to ask myself and others this question: Are we so comfortable in this freedom we enjoy that we don’t see what life would be like without it? Are we so mesmerized by the proverbial starburst and colors of our liberty that we don’t see, (or don’t want to see) the darkness that makes it so precious by contrast?
As Christians in America, I am beginning to feel the social tension like a wrench on an oxygen tank as it stifles religious freedom by degrees with every turn. However, we have not yet breathed in the smoke of arson setting fire to our churches as they have in Egypt, nor have we choked on the dust of rubble and ruins as those destroyed in China.
We haven’t yet had to clutch the tiny hand of a child born in prison as we wait to see if we would live or die, simply for the crime of professing Christ, nor have we had to surrender our children as we hear their last cries at the hands of Boko Haram militants. As the writer of Hebrews may say, we have “not yet wrestled to the point of bloodshed”. (Hebrews 12:4)
But why am I so “discouraging” or “negative”, you may ask? The answer is simple. I’m not saying all of this to be a downer. I’m simply pointing to Biblical prophecy. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul prophesied that these things will occur; that the church will come under attack and individual Christians will be persecuted. After all, Jesus Himself said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that they hated Me first” (John 15:18). This was not if, but when:
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.(2 Timothy 3:12-13)
Get this one:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”(Matt. 24:9)
Notice the “all the nations”?
It’s sad to say, but as great as this country is, America will be no exception.
But that doesn’t mean we should be flustered and taken off guard. No doubt we will be frustrated and discouraged, but this is all the more reason to temper those reactions with God’s word, all the more reason to get on our knees and seek His comfort and strength.
First, let’s examine our own hearts. Let’s take an honest look at how our own sin, (not anyone else’s), has done a fine job of separating us from God all on our own. It’s from a humble heart that God empowers His own to be a light in the world, ready to have an answer for our hope and faith.
Second, let’s remain sober-minded and focused upon our roles as believers in this world. Let’s wake up while we still have the opportunity! Let’s not be blind to the storm clouds coming or deaf to the rumblings of injustice. Let’s hold fast to sound doctrine, (for there will be many false teachers, Matthew 24:24), and re-dedicate ourselves to sharing the gospel as the kingdom calendar winds down.
Third, even though we understand prophecy, we can, and must make our voices heard for the simple preservation of society. Even in the recent Hobby Lobby case, it is important to point out that it was won by one small vote. Therefore, I implore all of you to go and vote for congressmen and senators that reflect your values, to make your thoughts and opinions known to our leaders. God has given us channels to defend these principles. On a practical level, I found some very helpful links and ways to get involved to make a difference in the world while we are here:
Having said that, I believe that laws and social reform fall short in one major way, and that is that they do not have to power to change the heart. They are a crucial framework by which to live, but they cannot, and do not transform anyone from the inside out. They cannot give me a desire to obey and live a godly life. As a Christian, I believe only the gospel can do that. Speak up we shall, but our greatest voice is to share the gospel. This perspective is that where godliness is seen, there is an influence on the individual, and the whole.
Last and most importantly, let’s remember that God is sovereign over all governments, and that all forms of wickedness and corruption will be cut down and God’s name will be glorified. Even in these times, we have the promise of comfort and peace in the end.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
What are your thoughts and convictions in regards to religious freedom and what is going on in this country and the world?